'Getting vaccinated is much more protective': Utah reports 1,250 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths

A person is tested by Nomi Health for COVID-19 at Cottonwood Heights City Hall parking lot on Sept. 30. The Utah Department of Health reported 1,250 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Tuesday.

A person is tested by Nomi Health for COVID-19 at Cottonwood Heights City Hall parking lot on Sept. 30. The Utah Department of Health reported 1,250 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Tuesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — As the Utah Department of Health reported 1,250 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths on Tuesday, University of Utah Health officials took time to again emphasize the importance of vaccination and getting a booster shot for those who are eligible.

At the same time, Salt Lake County Heath Department executive director Dr. Angela Dunn spoke to the county council about the need to get children vaccinated as soon as they are eligible.

Who can get a booster?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's most recent recommendation expands the eligibility of those who can receive the COVID-19 booster to include:

  • Adults age 65 and older
  • Long-term care setting residents age 18 and older
  • People with underlying medical conditions aged 18 to 49
  • Individuals who live or work in a "high-risk" setting aged 18 to 64. The CDC list of high-risk settings included first responders, education staff, food and agriculture workers, manufacturing workers, corrections workers, U.S. Postal Service Workers, public transit workers and grocery store workers.
  • All adults age 18 and older who received a Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine should receive a booster shot at least 2 months after receiving their initial vaccine.

In a panel discussion Tuesday, Dr. Emily Spivak, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health, pointed out that it is not recommended for those who are under the age of 65, have no underlying health issues, and are outside of a high-risk setting to receive a booster.

And while boosters provide extra protection for those who may have an increased risk, Spivak emphasized the efficacy of the vaccine.

"I have concerns that the booster discussion distracts from our primary initiative, which really still needs to be getting the 40-50% of our population who's not vaccinated fully vaccinated," she said. "It is still very, very effective. We are just trying to tamp this disease down as much as we can with every tool that we have."

Even those who previously contracted COVID-19 should still opt to be vaccinated, Spivak said.

"Those who have had COVID are still at five times higher risk of getting reinfected and having essentially an immunity breakthrough infection, as compared to those who are fully vaccinated," Spivak said.

"There is clear evidence that getting vaccinated after having COVID-19 is much more protective against getting reinfected," she continued, "The natural immunity ... can be varied."

A call to vaccinate children

Current unvaccinated rates include school-age children who were not eligible for the vaccine until Tuesday night. A special advisory panel to the CDC met earlier in the day and issued a recommendation for children ages 5 to 11 to receive Pfizer's pediatric COVID-19 shot, and final approval came from the CDC's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, within hours.

Implementation of the child vaccine program may reduce transmission rates among the community, Spivak said.

"(Children) go home back to their communities, their churches, their sports teams and spread it around," she said. "I think it's incredibly important, to get the pandemic under control, that every parent read this information, talk to your doctor about it, try and get all the facts."

"I don't know why any person would put themselves or their children at risk of one getting COVID," Spivak continued. "Even if it's a small chance, the chance at all of ending up in the hospital and potentially dying, but also these post-COVID symptoms which are really happening in about 7-8% of kids and can really debilitate people and their livelihood, and the vaccines can prevent all of that."

The Utah Health Department said 109,000 pediatric doses had been preordered ahead of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine approval and could arrive in Utah any time now.

Starting Wednesday in Salt Lake County, health officials will begin preregistering for pediatric vaccination appointments, according to county health department executive director Dr. Angela Dunn. The first pediatric vaccination appointments will be scheduled for Saturday, she told members of the Salt Lake County Council on Tuesday morning.

Health officials are hoping that the authorization of vaccines for the 5-11 age group will "be the boost that we need" to get more adults vaccinated, Dunn added.

"We are kind of in a last-ditch effort right now" to get more adults fully vaccinated before the December holidays, she said.

COVID cases trending up

Salt Lake County is experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases, especially since fall break, among the 18-49 age group, Dunn said. And if current metrics are any indication, this winter could be bleak, she said.

Last week, Utah had the fourth-highest increase in COVID-19 cases out of all U.S. states, she said. Salt Lake County saw an 11% increase in cases last week, and school-related cases continue to rise at rates faster than last year, Dunn added.

"If last year's any prediction, we are in for a rough winter," she said.

Intensive care units across the county continue to be at capacity, though hospitals have seen a plateau in the last week, Dunn said. However, the hospitals may see COVID-19 admissions rise again in the next week amid the county's surge, she added. The ICU at Primary Children's Hospital continues to be at capacity — as of Tuesday there were 14 COVID-19 cases at the hospital, according to Dunn.

About 70% of vaccine doses administered in Salt Lake County last week were booster doses, Dunn added. The uptake rate for first doses of the vaccine is slowing down greatly, she said.

Dunn added that she plans to register her children for vaccination appointments as soon as they are able.

"The data is pretty clear that kids who are otherwise healthy will benefit from a COVID vaccine," she said.

Tuesday data

Of the 1,250 new COVID-19 cases reported by Utah's department of health Tuesday, 242 of them were school-age children: 129 were reported in children ages 5 to 10; 56 children ages 11 to 13; and 57 children ages 14 to 17.

The rolling, seven-day average for positive tests is 1,452 per day, and the average positive rate of those tested is 17.5%.

Officials reported 3,771,087 total vaccines, which is an increase of 12,056 vaccines more than Monday.

Utah's health department reports that in the last 28 days, people who are unvaccinated have seen 15.6 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, which is three times greater than the week prior. Data shows that unvaccinated Utahns are at 10.5 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 3.6 times greater risk of testing positive for the disease than vaccinated people. The rates show a slight decrease from Monday's reported data.

Since Feb. 1, people in Utah who are unvaccinated have experienced an 8.7 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7.2 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 3.6 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, according to the data.

Currently, 532 people are hospitalized Tuesday with COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, total hospitalizations were reported by officials as 24,226.

Officials reported 3,771,087 total vaccines Tuesday, which is an increase of 12,056 vaccines more than Monday.

The latest deaths include:

  • An Emery County woman between the ages of 65 and 84, who was not hospitalized when she died
  • A Weber County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Davis County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Washington County, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • An Iron County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
  • A Salt Lake County, 65-84, not hospitalized.
  • A Weber County man over the age of 80, hospitalized.
  • A Davis County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.

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